Sunday, March 31, 2013
The Lord is risen, alleluia! He is risen, indeed, alleluia!
This morning we celebrate the greatest event of all time—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you—did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Here I am not so much asking if you believe Jesus rose again. Just because we believe something does not necessarily make it true. For instance, for centuries people believed the world was flat, but that did not change the fact that the world is round. So did Jesus rise from the dead?
In the seminary one of my professors asked this question in a slightly different way. He asked, “If someone discovered Jesus’ tomb with his bones inside, and this was proved beyond a doubt, would your faith change?” My answer, “Yes!” I was the first to raise my hand in class and said, “If they find the bones of Jesus, there is no way I would be a priest.” Being a priest is a nice job, and I enjoy the opportunities to be with you and your families and to walk with people in their joys and sufferings. Yet there is one aspect of priesthood that is not worth living out if Jesus did not actually rise from the dead—priestly celibacy. I would never have given up a wife and children if the resurrection of Christ did not happen. Do you think I would choose to live with Fr. Rich? If the bones of Jesus are found, I would be chasing the ladies immediately.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead leads to several conclusions. First, we have a profound insight into who Jesus is. Now everyone agrees that Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth. And many, even secular historians, recognize he was a great teacher, man of peace and in some sense a revolutionary. Yet if Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus is not merely a teacher, prophet or good man. He is God. This is either true or false.
And if Jesus is God, we have every reason to believe in the Church he founded. You could expect that if a normal guy established a church, no matter how great he was, it would eventually crumble. Yet if Jesus rose from the dead and is God, and promised he would be with us until the end, we can trust that the Catholic Church is led by him to this day. Every teaching of the Church, then, comes from the man who rose from the dead. While some of these teachings may be difficult for us to understand—and there are some that are difficult for me too—we can trust they are not invented by us, but taught by God.
Finally, if Jesus rose from the dead, we have all the reason to live in hope. No matter what struggles we face in life—and God only knows what some of you may be suffering with now—unemployment, divorce, cancer, the death of a child—we know the crucified one walks with us. We can live out St. Paul’s teaching to “think of what is above, not what is on earth.” Life is short, heaven is eternal. By rising from the dead Jesus opened the gates to heaven for us.
I encourage you to truly ask yourself—did Jesus really rise from the dead? I submit he did, and it is that fact alone that caused me to become a priest. I pray that this reality will transform your life. After all, following the resurrected Christ is worth founding your life on.